Hello friends! Welcome back to the gospel's. Today features the pretty well known story of Jesus baptism by John the Baptist, his temptation by the devil, and the calling of his first disciples. Jesus goes from baby to full grown man in Matthew's gospel which leaves me with plenty of questions of what the boy Jesus was like. One such theory that I fell in love with last year was The Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd. If you are interested in historical fiction loosely based on religious motifs then this book will completely blow you away. It's a book not as much about Jesus as it is his fictional wife, Ana, but the way his teenage character both inspires Ana and wrestles with his own calling feels so authentic it's hard to not call this the real deal. The book is also incredible at revealing culture of both Jerusalem, Sepphoris (where Jesus likely worked as a kid with his father), and the poor area of Galilee that he called home. I'll get off my recommendation soap box now but for real, check this out if you are looking for a good book.
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
The baptism of Jesus uses a lot of hellfire language (wheat from chaff, winnowing fork, baptize by fire, etc.) Do you think John had the point of Jesus ministry correct when he said that or was that his own agenda?
The devil uses scripture to promote a personal agenda and Jesus chastises him for it. What techniques do you use to help identify when you are letting scripture speak to you vs when you are speaking into scripture?
The disciples are noted as getting up with almost no questions asked and running to Jesus. If you could ask Jesus a question before following what would it be?
- My Thoughts -
Again, I don't have too much to share today as I want to let the Bible Project do most of the speaking as we get our footing set in this new territory (pun kinda intended) but I thought I would share a brief thing on John the Baptist. There is a somewhat strong (ok I'm biased cause I buy into it) theory that John was part of a group called the essences. They were weirdo dudes that lived in caves, ignored all of the world and did eat only what they could harvest or scavenge for (ie locust and honey would be appropriate.) Notably, the essences were the first group to do ritualized baptisms. While all Jews would wash in a ritual path to purify themselves from being unclean the concept of baptism by the essences was similar to what ours is now, a permanent cleansing of uncleanliness. For these reasons many scholars believe that during Jesus' teenager years he studied under John for years and was greatly influenced by him. Combining that with his poor life style and frequent encounters with the rich in Sepphoris he found the seeds for what "christianity" would become in the book of Acts. (All of this is said in further length in the Book of Longing, yup another plug.)
I've always appreciated that Joyce and Peter both give significance to John and often preach about him once a year. He isn't just an oddball character that baptizes Jesus. He's an oddball optimistic believing in the kingdom of God who had a huge amount of influence on Jesus. I want to sit with that thought for awhile and I hope you'll join me....what does it mean for you to have influence on God? How great is God's love for you to be open to your experiences and way of life? It's beautiful.
Anyways, I invite you to watch the Bible Project's overview on the first 13 chapters of Matthew. As always, they do a wonderful job at visualizing the major themes of what you've already read, what you will read, and how it connects to the larger canon of scripture.
Praying the Hymns
Our prayer for today is inspired by hymn 237 in our United Methodist Hymnal - Sing we now of Christmas. I invite you to join in by humming, singing, reciting or simply meditating on the music. I've never heard this hymn before but I find it really fun and non traditional from what you might expect a Christmas song to sound like. I hope you enjoy. Lyrics can be found in the video or beneath it.
1 Sing we now of Christmas,
Noel, sing we here!
Hear our grateful praises
to the babe so dear.
Sing we Noel, the King is born, Noel!
Sing we now of Christmas, sing we now Noel!
2 Angels called to shepherds,
"Leave your flocks at rest,
journey forth to Bethlehem,
find the lambkin blest." [Refrain]
3 In Bethlehem they found him;
Joseph and Mary mild,
seated by the manger,
watching the holy child. [Refrain]
4 From the eastern country
came the kings afar,
bearing gifts to Bethlehem
guided by a star. [Refrain]
5 Gold and myrrh they took there, gifts of greatest price; there was ne'er a place on earth so like paradise. [Refrain]